Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Or are they? Men have visited Venus and women have visited Mars. The truth is that we all have both genders mixed up in varying proportions within us. I defy most hetero people, for example, to admit that they have not attracted same sex followers because of their mix of genders. The trouble is that many of us repress this fact; and that is so much to our disadvantage in our relationships. Luca Sereni has been writing poetry for some time and in his first published novel ‘Mavì’ he explores in fictional form his often fraught pre-marital relationships making a noble attempt to understand them by writing a story of a woman.
‘Mavì’ is someone who leads an intense life in search of elusive happiness which never seems to arrive. Trapped in a marriage where she is unable to satisfy her officious and critical husband (although she cooks for him her most delicious meals and offers herself sexually utterly) and at all times Mavì makes a chance meeting with someone who for the first time in her life places her centre stage in her life. Suddenly she becomes transformed both physically (she loses fifty kilos), emotionally (she is able to enjoy her sexuality as never before) and mentally (she realises she is gifted intellectually).
The virtuoso nature of this first novel is that, unless one sees the cover and finds it was a man who wrote it, one would immediately jump to the assumption that a woman has set it down. In the nineteenth century there were novels written by women who, in their nom-de-plume, passed themselves off as men. A good example of this is Charlotte Bronte who wrote ‘Jane Eyre’ under the name Currer Bell. A percipient novelist, Thackeray himself, was the first to sense that this was essentially a novel from a woman’s pen. It’s, therefore, good to know that in our century there are now men who, Tyresias-like, write from a woman’s point of view.
Mavì, derived from the French Ma Vie (my life) has further resonances in Luca’s life which he has brilliantly transformed into a creative work of some persuasion. Fifty quite short chapters describe in intimate detail and exquisite delicacy the transformations of Mavì’s life. It’s worth quoting some of the passages from the book without, of course, giving the storyline away.
The book starts with a quotation from Erasmus of Rotterdam. From his ‘In praise of Folly’ which begins: “observe how with such providence nature, mother of mankind, took the care to spread even a pinch of folly and infused into man more passion than reason in order that everything could be less sad, brutish, insipid and boring”.
The book itself is full of revealing insights in the development of a woman’s psyche and self-realisation. For example (my translation):
‘For the first time I see the woman behind the mirror’s reflection’.
‘That part of me which had fallen asleep in the forgetfulness of an unfulfilled life has returned to knock heavily on my mind and on my heart’.
In last Saturday’s interview and book presentation at Bagni di Lucca’s Shelley House Luca Sereni in conversation with Luca PB Guidi suggested that the main reason for his writing ‘Mavì’ was to understand women. This, of course, seems to most of us men a fabulous and well-nigh impossible task to achieve convincingly but for those with wives or female partners it must be a daily exercise. What better way, then, to write a novel from a woman’s angle and where the protagonist is someone supposedly from Venus?
(Luca Sereni – left -. in conversation with Luca PB Guidi at Shelley House, Bagni di Lucca)
The book is both sensitively and racily written and speeds the reader through a multiplicity of emotions. Particularly well-written – because they are often the most difficult parts of a novel to avoid from descending into bathos – are the sexual encounters and the love-making which is beautifully described without any puritanical restraint. This aspect of ‘Mavì’ does however provide a page one caution that the book is only suitable for an adult audience.
I admire Luca Sereni’s valiant entry into the skin of a woman and his undoubted success in evoking the joys, disappointments, passions and illusions of the ‘fair sex.’
Women are even today not equal to men, In fact, as far back as 1953 the anthropologist Ashley Montagu wrote a book with the title ‘The Natural Superiority of Women’ … and so women are – in every sense of the phrase – far superior to us males…..
PS The book is available during Shelley House opening hours: Thurs to Fri and is priced Euros 13. The interview was the last of events celebrating Bagni di Lucca’s ‘Settimana della Donna’ for International Women’s day.